Mr. Robert McNamara, the U.S. Secretary of Defence, appeared before Senator J.William Fulbright's Committee on?
Mr. Robert McNamara, the U.S. Secretary of Defence, appeared before Senator J.William Fulbright's Committee on Foreign Relations on Wednesday (20 April). The Secretary, under questioning, discussed the United States military presence in Vietnam and other military matters. U.S. policy was sharply criticised by committee members at several points.
The hearings were called in order that the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate could take testimony on a bill before it asking for continued appropriations for the United States Military Aid programme.
Senator Fulbright, the Committee chairman, has been a frequent critic of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. He opened the questioning by telling the Secretary that he was concerned lest U.S. military aid programmes lead to future Vietnams. He said the current Vietnamese situation stemmed largely from the presence in Vietnam of an American military aid mission, and he was deeply concerned. Mr. McNamara responded by drawing a distinction between nations receiving military aid from the United States and nations which had signed mutual defense treaties with the United States. He indicated that the supplying of military aid did not commit the United States to military action in a country should that country be attacked. Senator Fulbright disagreed and, after citing previous testimony, said that it appeared to him that there had been a very broad expansion of U.S. obligations under the military assistance programme.
Later in the hearings, Senator Albert Gore of Tennessee asked the Secretary what the United States military role would be during the upcoming Vietnamese elections. "Is it our goal to establish a democratic government in Vietnam?" he asked. The Secretary said, unequivocally, that it was not. He said the sole purpose of the U.S. involvement in Vietnam was to give the Vietnamese people the stability to permit them to choose their own form of government and political and economic system. He hoped and expected, the Secretary said, that a new government in Saigon would be democratic and friendly to the United States - but if it were not, the United States would abide by the decision of the Vietnamese people.